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Author Topic: Congrats to Dr. Steerpike!  (Read 365 times)
Giant Space Hamster
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« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2017, 08:12:34 PM »

Those projects sound amazing. Maybe we can crowd-source you a fellowship or endowment. smile Seriously, I would love to read your work, so keep us posted on your professional progress and pubs. Somewhat related to that, how do the Canadian programs regard English professors publishing fictional books pursuant to tenure? I know some professors here in the US who so publish, but I think they only did so after becoming Associate Professors.

As for my doctoral experience, I think clinical psychology PhD programs are pretty idiosyncratic as they are a mash-up of really two related but distinct degrees/educational experiences. The first is training you to be a scientist conducting medical-behavioral research, which means you become a research slave (er, research assistant); take tons of research design and stats classes; design, conduct, and present research; and chase publications and grants. The second aspect is training you to be an actual clinician, which entails clinical internships and practica, learning evidence-based therapies and assessment instruments, and providing therapy and assessment. Basically, it's like going to med school and getting a stat PhD at the same time. There's certainly overlap, but there's a lot of strain. Regardless, if you survive a clinical psych PhD program, there's no question you have "real-world" exoteric experience, as you've been seeing clients, working in hospitals, community mental health sites, and likely working with government agencies for several years. Even the more esoteric academic endeavors and skills tend to be quiet practical as clinical psychology research, unlike say social psychology, is inherently applied (e.g., did the clinical intervention reduce suicide rates in middle schools?). Now, as for penniless emotional wrecks, yes, that happens aplenty both with those who drop out and complete clinical psych PhD programs. Anyways, I digress.
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2017, 11:45:41 PM »

Wow that sounds great! Exhausting I'm sure but totally great. The mash-up of science and professional training seems incredibly versatile.

I'm actually not too sure about the status of fiction when it comes to tenure. If I became an Assistant Professor though I would probably write less creatively till I was tenured for just that reason. You really have to hit the ground running once that clock starts ticking from what I've heard, and a novel seems less dependable as an end-product quite aside from the possibility of it not counting properly. Honestly my career priorities are probably the reverse of a lot of PhDs, who see teaching-centric jobs as their plan B; they're my plan A, and a tenure-track research position is more like a plan B for me.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 11:50:09 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2017, 12:46:28 PM »

A hearty congrats! That's awesome!
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« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2017, 12:58:36 PM »

Thanks Xeviat!

The dissertation has now been accepted into the institutional repository, so it should be available to view in 5-7 business days. I'll post a link when it's up for anyone interested. I can't guarantee it'll be the most riveting reading, since it does a lot of things that dissertations have to do, but some might enjoy parts of it. The committee praised but were somewhat amused by the prose style, which is somewhere between academic and my own "natural" style.
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« Reply #19 on: April 22, 2017, 01:31:40 PM »

Sounds good. Do you discuss slipstream at all?
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« Reply #20 on: April 22, 2017, 01:58:35 PM »

Not by name, although the sort of dissonance that slipstream produces is pretty similar in some ways to the weird disgust I focus on, which is all about breaching or dissolving the boundaries of the subject/the human and the non-human world. That said slipstream seems potentially more sort of anti-realist in the philosophical sense, whereas I'm making the argument that weird fiction is deeply, powerfully interested in an intense form of realism of the metaphysical variety - that even though the weird is full of monsters and preternatural beings, it's fundamentally about the nature of reality, as opposed to the contents of the human mind. So for example I draw a significant distinction between the Gothic (fixated on the human past, on the psyche, on our human fears and desires, on subject-affirming "terror") and the weird (focused on the non-human past, on objects and the world, on the indifference or malignancy of the cosmos, on subject-obliterating "horror" or disgust). So I'm not sure exactly where slipstream would fit according to that framework.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2017, 02:34:15 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #21 on: April 22, 2017, 02:01:03 PM »

Sounds to me like a follow-up manuscript/article.

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« Reply #22 on: April 23, 2017, 12:15:31 PM »

Steerpike

Thanks LoA!

It should indeed eventually be possible to read my thesis after it is uploaded to an open access repository - probably some time next week.

Defending the dissertation was indeed interesting and challenging, although fortunately they did not saddle me with any substantive revisions or rewriting, which is a possibility during these things. I take that as something of a vote of confidence for the thing's quality, and it certainly earned its share of praise at the defence, although there are a number of details that still dissatisfy me about it. I hope to eventually turn a version of the dissertation into a monograph where I can clarify and develop a few of those loose ends. Overall, though, I'm pleased and really quite proud of the work as a whole. I deal with four authors in detail - Poe, Machen, Blackwood, Lovecraft - over about 320 pages, so it's a fairly deep dive into their works, their ideas, their language, literary theory, and bits of philosophy, primarily aesthetics and metaphysics, particularly as practiced by the so-called "speculative realist" movement.

Congratulations on a long journey well fought!

As an aside- where does Hawthorne's weird fiction, like "The Birthmark" and other pieces fall in relation to your scholarship on those above august luminaries of oddity? Especially considering that piece's involvement with disgust.

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Beowulf ("wyrd" fiction)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Shakespeare's Macbeth
Sheridan le Fanu's “Carmilla”
Stories from the Lovecraft anthology The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories
China Mieville's The City & The City
Will you have your students identify similar themes of disgust at the monster and the other throughout the series? (e.g. Grendel, Grendel's Mother, the witches who are apart from society, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth causing himself to become one, Cthulhu- different conceptions of the 'other's' power, etc.) Definitely seems as though your students may be producing some interesting essays.

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So for example I draw a significant distinction between the Gothic (fixated on the human past, on the psyche, on our human fears and desires, on subject-affirming "terror") and the weird (focused on the non-human past, on objects and the world, on the indifference or malignancy of the cosmos, on subject-obliterating "horror" or disgust).
Also, by your example there, would your course list be essentially- Gothic for Macbeth--never really considered it as being a Gothic novel-- moving toward the Weird for Lovecraft/Mieville?
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 12:31:15 PM by LD » Logged


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« Reply #23 on: April 23, 2017, 01:10:23 PM »

LD

Where does Hawthorne's weird fiction, like "The Birthmark" and other pieces fall in relation to your scholarship on those above august luminaries of oddity? Especially considering that piece's involvement with disgust.

Hawthorne sometimes creeps on the proto-weird, I think, but he often slips into Christian allegory in a way that isn't especially "cosmic," precisely. There's definitely stories of his that could be read as foreshadowing later weird efforts, though.

LD

Will you have your students identify similar themes of disgust at the monster and the other throughout the series? (e.g. Grendel, Grendel's Mother, the witches who are apart from society, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth causing himself to become one, Cthulhu- different conceptions of the 'other's' power, etc.) Definitely seems as though your students may be producing some interesting essays.

I will probably try to focus on a lot more than disgust, but it'll definitely come up. I've taught Bewoulf before and Grendel and his mother are really great to teach with: you can read them in a lot of different ways, even depending on how you translate certain terms. So there's, like, a way of reading the monsters in relation to Anglo-Saxon culture, or to medieval theology, or psychology and sexuality, etc.

LD

Also, by your example there, would your course list be essentially- Gothic for Macbeth--never really considered it as being a Gothic novel-- moving toward the Weird for Lovecraft/Mieville?

Macbeth precedes the actual "Gothic" proper by roughly 150 years and the English novel by about a century, but is often thought of (along with Hamlet and the plays of John Webster) as foreshadowing the Gothic. I do think of it more as a classically Gothic text than a weird one, although the weird sisters commune with Hecate, and there's a very interesting "universe" developed in the play - Macbeth's world is this sort of fallen, ontologically corrupt, "sublunary" place of corruption and chaos, full of inversions of the "natural" order and disruptions of Renaissance metaphysics, rattling the Great Chain of Being as it were. So I do think there's some glimmer of thee weird's more "cosmic" qualities in Macbeth. The moral and metaphysical nature of the universe is something people think about in Macbeth quite a bit.

Overall, I'm using a broader definition of weird in the course than I am in my dissertation, so there's certainly overlap with the Gothic; I tend to think of the weird as kind of a tumour growing out of the Gothic rather than an entirely new genre, though, so moving from the more-Gothic texts to the more-weird texts does make a certain amount of sense.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 01:25:10 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #24 on: April 23, 2017, 05:49:24 PM »

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but he often slips into Christian allegory in a way that isn't especially "cosmic," precisely.
If I understand your statement properly, that is an interesting proposition... reference to Theist allegory prohibiting a work from being cosmic and non-understandable. Inherently, according to many Theist sects' dogmas, the faith's mysteries are not understandable. While I am open to a consideration that Theistical allegorical references that are present in some of Hawthrone's works could make them something other than "weird", what would you say about C.S.Lewis' That Hideous Strength, a "Christian" novel that portrays cosmic evil--since the evil is "defeated" in the end (albeit only temporarily), does that mean the work cannot be weird fiction--even Lovecraft's novels saw "evil" being abeyed.?

Looking at your definition:
"weird (focused on the non-human past, on objects and the world, on the indifference or malignancy of the cosmos, on subject-obliterating "horror" or disgust). "
I can see why it may be difficult to place an allegorical work under it and if you see the above-mentioned novel as focusing on the salvation of Peter(?) the main male character, its focus is more on an individual's struggle, but the novel really is about the struggle of a few against a malignant actor that subverts the vast majority of indifferent humans. Further, the novel's focus on the angels' struggles is a focus on a non-human past. Maybe it's a type of "Theist-Weird Fiction", which has many, but not all the qualities of Weird Fiction?

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Overall, I'm using a broader definition of weird in the course than I am in my dissertation, so there's certainly overlap with the Gothic
Thank you for the elaboration!
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 05:52:48 PM by LD » Logged


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« Reply #25 on: April 23, 2017, 06:08:44 PM »

LD

If I understand your statement properly, that is an interesting proposition... reference to Theist allegory prohibiting a work from being cosmic and non-understandable. Inherently, according to many Theist sects' dogmas, the faith's mysteries are not understandable. While I am open to a consideration that Theistical allegorical references that are present in some of Hawthrone's works could make them something other than "weird", what would you say about C.S.Lewis' That Hideous Strength, a "Christian" novel that portrays cosmic evil--since the evil is "defeated" in the end (albeit only temporarily), does that mean the work cannot be weird fiction--even Lovecraft's novels saw "evil" being abeyed.?

It's not so much theism as it is a specificallyt anthropomorphic theism, where God is imagined more or less in the image of humanity - that tends to suggest a universe where people are of particular significance, where the human soul and human endeavours and human failings and human perception and human structures of meaning are at the centre of things. I think of the weird as strongly antihumanist or posthumanist. There are versions of theism (a lot of mysticism for instance) that move away from a humanist, anthropocentric cosmos, though. A pantheistic god, for instance, seems to cut against that grain.

 That Hideous Strength and the Space Trilogy generally does seem closer to the weird than, say, the Chronicles of Narnia or something. The alien quality of Lewis' angelic figures certainly feels like it undermines a strictly anthropocentric universe. Some of Arthur Machen's fiction does a similar thing. That said human beings and the fate of the human soul do still seem very important in That Hideous Strength in particular.

I do think that plenty of works are strictly one thing or the other - I'm primarily distinguishing Gothic and weird to help talk about a kind of aesthetic effect or way of thinking, and less about imposing strict category divisions on texts. There's quite a few works that have been classified as Gothic that seem to have weird elements or qualities, or vice versa. M.R. James for instance is really mixing the two a lot.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 06:13:02 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #26 on: April 23, 2017, 09:07:52 PM »

Steerpike

It's not so much theism as it is a specificallyt anthropomorphic theism, where God is imagined more or less in the image of humanity - that tends to suggest a universe where people are of particular significance, where the human soul and human endeavours and human failings and human perception and human structures of meaning are at the centre of things. I think of the weird as strongly antihumanist or posthumanist. There are versions of theism (a lot of mysticism for instance) that move away from a humanist, anthropocentric cosmos, though. A pantheistic god, for instance, seems to cut against that grain.
I think I see what you're getting at in distinguishing between anthropomorphic theism as incompatible with weird fiction's conceptualization of humanity's inconsequential nature, as opposed to other theism types that could be compatible with an inconsequential humanity.

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That Hideous Strength and the Space Trilogy generally does seem closer to the weird than, say, the Chronicles of Narnia or something. The alien quality of Lewis' angelic figures certainly feels like it undermines a strictly anthropocentric universe. Some of Arthur Machen's fiction does a similar thing. That said human beings and the fate of the human soul do still seem very important in That Hideous Strength in particular.
No arguments with your rhetorical thrust here, though as a follow-up, arguably, is not the human soul also important in Lovecraft's works like his piece with the Ghoul in the cave. In that piece, a statement is arguably being made about what happens to the soul when one dies.

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I do think that plenty of works are not strictly one thing or the other - I'm primarily distinguishing Gothic and weird to help talk about a kind of aesthetic effect or way of thinking, and less about imposing strict category divisions on texts. There's quite a few works that have been classified as Gothic that seem to have weird elements or qualities, or vice versa. M.R. James for instance is really mixing the two a lot.

Thank you for the mention of M.R. James. I just finished reading, http://www.thin-ghost.org/items/show/136, based on your comment here. That Victorian literature (or others similar to it) seems to certainly have inspired Lovecraft.

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and less about imposing strict category divisions on texts."
tl;dr of the following paragraph: The following is a stream of consciousness ramble basically stating that if you ever end up creating a teaching aid on the history of gothic and weird literature, please post it here. laugh.
Fair enough; likely the best conclusion. I agree that deconstructionism has triumphed in critical conceptualization :p. The world, for the most part, is more a continuum of ideas than a hard-wired platonic world with forced categories and ideal forms. That said, and I do not think you would disagree since to some extent it's the traditional bread and butter of researchers writing theories (please correct me if you do disagree), the Victorian fascination with categories and quantification, phylum and genus, brings some structure to better analyze and visualize. If I was in a class on the subject, I would delight in seeing the venn diagrams of where certain literature falls--lots of elements overlapping for certain stories and not overlapping for others and viewing the years each literary piece debuted and seeing possible lineages of inspiration.
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« Reply #27 on: April 23, 2017, 11:02:46 PM »

LD

No arguments with your rhetorical thrust here, though as a follow-up, arguably, is not the human soul also important in Lovecraft's works like his piece with the Ghoul in the cave. In that piece, a statement is arguably being made about what happens to the soul when one dies.

Which story is that? "Pickman's Model" maybe?

There are definitely moments in early Lovecraft (pre-"Call of Cthulhu") where he's doing a lot of pastiches of previous authors, so sometimes his approach isn't quite worked out. So it could be that the souls "creeps in" during some of those early stories.

LD, given your interest in subgenre, you might enjoy something like Terry Heller's The Delights of Terror, a very interesting monograph from awhile back, which happens to be available to read online, here. He's using a different classification system than I am, but he sketches out a whole series of subgenre types: the marvelous horror thriller, the fantastic/uncanny horror thriller, and the pure fantastic tale of terror. His approach is inspired by the structuralist Tzvetan Todorov, which leads to venn type diagrams like this one. For Heller and Todorov these distinctions are all about hesitations between natural and supernatural explanations for things. Something like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings are pure marvelous, where Ann Radcliffe's novels, or most Scooby Doo stories, would be uncanny; the pure fantastic is when we're never sure if something is supernatural or natural (as in, say, The Turn of the Screw). Then there are subtypes - so the marvelous horror thriller, for instance, is a genre where we're not sure if things are natural or supernatural but they turn out to be supernatural in the end.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 11:09:31 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #28 on: April 24, 2017, 09:32:26 PM »

Thank you for the link! I will attempt to get through it.
Thank you for the venn diagram laugh.

As far as the Lovecraft story, I believe I was thinking of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Outsider_(short_story).
To a lesser degree, I think https://lovecraftianscience.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/lovecrafts-beast-in-the-cave/, may also apply. (Also, I recommend the blog).
« Last Edit: April 24, 2017, 09:35:59 PM by LD » Logged


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« Reply #29 on: April 24, 2017, 10:22:09 PM »

Oh, "The Outsider"! It does feel somewhat closer the Gothic - more psychological than cosmic. Would we call the main character human anymore? I didn't write on this one but it'd be interesting to think about. Disgust certainly plays a strong role.
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